Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused Vietnam of using cyber-attacks to incapacitate the websites of independent bloggers as well as arresting some of the dissidents themselves.
In a press release, the international rights group listed a series of arrests and police harassment of internet dissidents since mid-April.
It also alleged the Vietnamese government was behind a series of malware and distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks on alternative political websites over the past year.
HRW said police had beaten one internet dissident, Lu Thi Thu Trang, while interrogating her on April 28.
Blogger Ha Si Phu’s internet and phone lines were cut off on May 8, HRW said, following a written order from the Bureau of Media and Information in his home town of Dalat, which accused him of spreading “anti-government” information.
Ha Si Phu is the pen name of retired biology professor Nguyen Xuan Tu, 70, who began writing provocative political essays in the 1990s.
Internet dissident Nguyen Thanh Giang said he had seen an electronic copy of the document ordering Tu’s phone cut off, which was forwarded to several other bloggers.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Giang said. “They have cut off my telephone and mobile phone several times. The last time was about four months ago, when I spoke with foreign media.”
In April, cyber-security firm McAfee Inc and Google Inc said they had traced a series of cyber-attacks on Vietnamese-language political websites to IP addresses inside Vietnam.
HRW said two foreign Vietnamese-language websites hit by hundreds of DDOS attacks had traced them to an IP address belonging to Viettel, a government-owned telecommunications company under the Ministry of Defence.
The Vietnamese government did not respond to HRW’s accusations in time for publication.